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  • Final Activity Report Summary - WIDER EUROPE MED (Wider Europe', the Mediterranean, and the Middle East: Strategic interests vs. identity dynamics in EU foreign policy making)

Final Activity Report Summary - WIDER EUROPE MED (Wider Europe', the Mediterranean, and the Middle East: Strategic interests vs. identity dynamics in EU foreign policy making)

Focusing on the process of the EU's foreign policy-making towards the Mediterranean, the research project demonstrated that the shift within the EU's Mediterranean policy from the Barcelona Process to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) resulted from the interplay of different logics. Strategic interests and the need for a new policy towards the region in light of the collapsed peace process may explain the inclusion of the Mediterranean into the emerging ENP to a certain extent. However, EU-internal identity dynamics are far more relevant for explaining the recent shift within the EU's Mediterranean policy. These are linked, on the one hand, to the EU's desire of reproducing the success of its enlargement policy, which explains why the ENP incorporates enlargement tools and instruments. On the other hand, the formulation of a single policy for an area that expands from Morocco to the Ukraine can be linked to the EU's ambitions of becoming a power on the international stage.

Linking the empirical analysis of the process of EU foreign-policy making to outcome, the determining impact of EU identity dynamics on the formulation of the ENP explains the inconsistencies of the policy vis-à-vis the southern Mediterranean. First, it accounts for the difficulties of adopting enlargement tools to an area with distinct specificities, for which, unlike Eastern Europe, EU membership is categorically ruled out. Second, it results in a strong rhetorical emphasis on human rights and democratisation within the ENP. While this objective is relevant for the EU because it reflects its own values and identity, it is not matched by appropriate incentives, while it is occasionally also contradicted by the logic of 'strategic interests'. Third, the adoption of the ENP framework to the Mediterranean also affected EU policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The ENP's emphasis on bilateralism implies recognition of Israel's far more advanced economic and political status, and with it, a 'decoupling' of Israel from the regional context. In this vein, the proposed pathway for future EU-Israeli relations, as defined in the bilateral 'Action Plan', stipulates Israel's integration into large areas of the EU's internal market, whereas the objectives of political relations and conflict resolution are ambiguous at best. Considering the altered regional situation over the last year, the EU's policy change cannot solely be linked to the adoption of the ENP. However, the analysis of the negotiations on the EU-Israeli 'Action Plan', which was adopted before the Palestinian elections brought a Hamas-led government to power, sustains that the ENP implies a new approach, which was subsequently reinforced by regional developments.

From a theoretical point of view, the finding that EU-internal identity dynamics were crucial in the formulation of the ENP's objectives and geographical scope has a number of implications. First, the research shed light on the importance of EU-internal processes of policy transfer, which is compatible with the observed relevance of 'standard operating procedures' within theories of organisational behaviour. Second, touching upon the question of rationality, the research shows that the combination of organisational behaviour and the power of identity dynamics in EU foreign policy-making contradict the assumption of strictly utility-rational behaviour. Rather, they point to the norm-driven character of collective rationality. Third, the research validated the assumption that the interplay of different types of rationality, which are inherent in distinct logics and motivations, are best suited to explain the recent shift in the EU's Mediterranean policy, along with the inconsistencies as far as policy outcome is concerned.

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